Coming Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma - Read Online
Coming Apart
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"Kingma deals with love so directly...that Coming Apart brings immediate comfort to anyone in pain." -LA Weekly

Next to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the most painful experience most people will ever go through. Coming Apart is a first-aid kit for getting through the ending. It is a tool that will enable you to live through the end of your relationship with your self esteem intact.

Daphne Rose Kingma, the undisputed expert on matters of the heart, explores the critical facets of relationship breakdowns:Love myths: why we are really in relationshipsThe life span of loveThe emotional and unconscious processes of partingHow to get through the endingHow to create a personal workbook for finding resolution

Originally published in 1987 and continuously in print since then, with more than half a million copies sold, Coming Apart has been an important resource for hundreds of thousands of readers experiencing the pain and stress of a break-up. For anyone going through the ending of a relationship Kingma is a caring, sensitive guide.

This re-packaged edition includes a new introduction by the author.

Published: Red Wheel Weiser on
ISBN: 9781609255466
List price: $16.95
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Coming Apart - Daphne Rose Kingma

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2011

Introduction to the

Revised Edition

WHEN I WAS A GRADUATE STUDENT getting divorced, a colleague of mine said to me: Well, now you're the kind of person your mother wouldn't want you to have as a friend. I was devastated by his remark. Yet five years later I found myself counseling a number of people who were shocked to find that their marriages, too, were ending. Wondering how he'd ever get through the process, one of my clients asked if there was a book I could recommend to help him navigate these roiling emotional waters. When I realized that there wasn't, I was inspired to write Coming Apart.

Although in our hearts we still hold marriage as the form we most want our romantic relationships to take, the truth is that in the years since this book was written we have seen a whole raft of new relationships spring up like mushrooms. We've also seen that along with marrying, people often come apart; that along with falling in love, we frequently end relationships. Whatever your relationship configuration, marriage, living together, or hopeful romance, if it's coming to an end, you'll find your heart hurting, your psyche scrambled, and your world turned upside down.

No matter how many people have already ended a relationship—and millions have—no matter whether you've done it before yourself, the end of a romantic relationship is still one of the absolutely most devastating emotional experiences you will ever go through. It's like a death, except that with a death you at least know for sure that the story is over: there's no going back. With the end of a relationship, however, there are thousands of agonizing opportunities for second-guessing, wondering whether you've done the right thing, asking yourself if you shouldn't try harder, if there isn't some way to rewrite the story so it can have a happy ending.

In the last several decades, divorce, the legal, court-sanctioned break-up of a marriage, has really come out of the closet. Fully fifty percent of first-time marriages end in divorce, and many statistics speculate that the percentage is even higher for second-time marital unions. In spite of the fact that divorce is now a familiar thread in the fabric of our society, there's still a tremendous amount of shame and confusion when a marriage comes apart. And the multitude of invisible break-ups—pulling the plug on a living-together relationship or a romance that's barely out of the starting gate—can be equally, if not even more, traumatic. That's because when you're still just exploring the possibilities of a relationship, or if you've been in it for a while and are wondering whether or not to take it to the next level—to start living together, for example, or to turn your living-together relationship into a marriage—the heartbreak can be almost doubled. Not only are you losing the relationship you have, you're also losing the relationship that now you never will have—the one you thought might evolve out of this one.

It's sad but true that overall we're a lot more scared of relationships than we used to be. What seemed in the past like a sure till-death-do-us-part scenario is now beset by circumstances we never used to have to consider: a fragile new economic landscape, a jungle of employment uncertainty, cyber distractions of every ilk, and a just plain terrible shortage of time.

In this social landscape, it's harder than ever to pursue romantic relationships and to nurture them. It's harder to keep a relationship together, and even more difficult—in the midst of all the things we're juggling—to confer an intention of permanence on a budding relationship. We used to feel optimistic about solidifying our relationships, and pretty darn sure about taking the step of marriage. So we were therefore all the more shocked when our marriages crumbled to an end. But now, as if all that weren't enough, added to the new fragility of marriage is the current explosion of alternative relationship forms, making us vulnerable to a whole new array of unexpected endings.

Whether you slipped into a romantic engagement that isn't quite working any longer and are wondering whether it's time to end it, or you were happily grounded in a marriage you were sure would last a lifetime, this book is for you. It's a hand to hold through every agonizing step of the process of letting go. It will tell you how to discover whether or not your relationship has run its course, and what you're likely to encounter as you go through each of the stages of parting. Even more important, it will help you understand why you got into this particular relationship in the first place, as well as what, in the larger frame of your life, was actually accomplished through your being in it. Finally, it will give you practical advice about how to regather yourself for the upcoming chapters of your life—even though right now it may be almost impossible for you to imagine that there will be some.

Time does a lot to heal our broken hearts, but really understanding what transpired in each of our relationships is what allows us to finally let go and move on.

No one I've ever worked with who has ended a relationship has come back to me later saying they wished they could resurrect the relationship they struggled so hard to let go of. That's because life keeps taking us to new places. It wants us to continue to grow and so it keeps sending us new people and experiences to enlarge our experience of life and of ourselves. So take heart. Although there may be plenty of tears in the process, you're not headed down a dead-end street. In fact, when you've taken yourself through the process of parting, you may just find yourself standing at the doorway to a whole new life. It is my deepest hope that you will.

1

A Hand to Hold

ENDING A RELATIONSHIP is so painful and makes us feel so awful—bad, hopeless, inadequate, desperate, lost, lonely, and worthless—that most of us are afraid we won't live through it. We feel bad about what our families will think, we're afraid of what the neighbors will think, we feel terrible for our children, we worry about leaving our houses, and we're anxious about our financial futures. But worst of all, we feel badly about ourselves. Not only are we losing context, history, and the familiar choreographies of our lives, but we are also losing a sense of who we really are and we get shaken to the core about our own self-worth.

At precisely the moment when we most need some perspective, some sense that there are reasons besides our own failures to account for what is happening, we are most inclined to take the blame entirely upon ourselves. It is exactly because it is such a natural inclination to define the ending of a relationship as a personal failure—and, consequently, to go through what is often a devastating crisis in self-esteem—that it is terribly important to see that there are always some other factors operating when a relationship ends.

Rather than viewing the end of a relationship as a statement of personal failure, I believe there are always good, legitimate, and understandable reasons why relationships end. These reasons have to do with the chemistry and process of relationships themselves.

In our individual lives, relationships are one of the most important vehicles by which we create our identities and through which we define ourselves. Since this is the case, it may be that we will create a number of relationships to achieve that self-definition, and, consequently, we may end one or several relationships in a single lifetime.

A relationship is a process and not a destination. It is not necessarily the final emotional resting place of the persons who enter into it, but a vital and growing entity that has a life—and a lifetime—of its own.

While we don't give it much thought, our most strongly internalized myth about love is that love is forever. Our popular music and literature continually assert this, and even aside from this encouragement, we tend to see relationships as permanent, to assume that once they have begun, they will go on, immutably, forever.

And yet, with increasing frequency, relationships do end. One out of every two marriages ends, and uncounted numbers of short-and long-term unions not legalized by marriage also end. These stunning statistics certainly prove that love is not forever, yet when our relationships end, we judge ourselves harshly, according to the values implied by the myth of forever.

The truth is that since we first embroidered this myth on our hearts, our relationships have gone through innumerable transformations, while our thinking about them has not. As a result, an incredible number of people are suffering through the trauma of ending their relationships with guilt, rage, self-flagellation, and a profound loss of self-esteem as the only emotional hallmarks of parting.

We all seem to be experts at falling in love. We even have a number of commonly agreed upon rituals for courting. But we don't know much about what goes on inside of a relationship, and we know even less about how to end one. Survivors of ended relationships haven't left us much of a trail as to how they made it through this painful rite of passage. We know that there are some survivors, that hardly anyone dies or ends up in an insane asylum because of having ended a relationship. Indeed, among the survivors, we know many examples of transformed men and women, people who are happier after their break-ups and divorces. But we don't know how they made it through the terrible experience.

That's one of the reasons endings are so difficult. We don't know how to do them. We don't know how to get through the endings of relationships. We've all seen people around us going through their endings (or we've even done it once or twice ourselves), and what we see are people in pain, bouncing off the walls emotionally and having to go through radical upheavals in their lives and circumstances. In general, our observations teach us that the endings of relationships are frightening indeed, and this makes us very afraid of going through an ending of our own. Sometimes we are even afraid to acknowledge that the dissolution of the relationship might actually be an improvement because we are so afraid of going through whatever we'll have to go through in order to accomplish it.

One of our greatest fears about ending a relationship is that in the process of parting we will have to experience feelings that will overwhelm us and from which we will never be able to recover. We all suspect that the ending of our relationship is going to take us into some deep emotional waters. We are already feeling vaguely out of control as we contemplate the possibility of the ending, and we sense that the ending itself will take us in over our heads emotionally and leave us feeling totally out of control. This fear is so immense—and so pervasive—that even if a soothsayer could tell us unequivocally that in twenty-five years we would still be as unhappy in our present relationship as we are now, we would probably still be afraid of ending it. Many of us would rather do anything—including continuing to live in a miserable, lifeless, spirit-defeating relationship—than go through all the feelings of ending a relationship.

Another great fear is that, once having ended our present relationship, we will never love or be loved again. While this feeling is very frightening, it has been my experience that, for the most part, this is not the case; in fact, an overwhelming majority of my clients who ended relationships went on to establish new and much more satisfying unions. These happier relationships resulted when people were willing to learn the lessons their previous relationships had to teach.

I have helped hundreds of people through the process of ending their relationships: people who precipitated the ending, people who resented the ending, and couples who mutually agreed upon the ending. My experience is that whether you leave or were left, if you are willing to go through the process of ending in a directed and thoughtful way, without avoiding any part of the emotional process, you can go on to establish a new and more satisfying relationship.

The purpose of this book is to hold out a hand to anyone who is already going through the ending of a relationship and who, as a result, is feeling all the difficult, scary, and unfamiliar feelings that accompany a parting. (If you are not sure your relationship is ending or should end, begin by reading the coda, which starts on page 155.) By showing you that relationships do have legitimate reasons for ending, by guiding you through the normal emotional stages that occur, and by providing you with a first-aid kit for getting through the ending, this book will enable you to live through the end of your relationship with your self and your self-esteem intact.

2

Why Is Breaking Up

So Hard to Do?

NEXT TO THE DEATH of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the single most emotionally painful experience that any of us ever goes through. In spite of divorce statistics, and although every one of us has been touched by someone's experience of divorce or separation, when we find ourselves contemplating the end of our own relationships, we are totally unprepared. The terrible thing that happens to others is, like terminal illness or death, a thing that is never supposed to happen to us. Because love is our security blanket, we want it to last forever and to be our everything. That's why breaking up is so hard to do.

Existential Fears

When I say that love is our security blanket, what I mean is that we use our intimate relationships more than any other experience in our lives to solve some of the most basic questions of our existence. Why don't I live forever? What is the meaning of life? What should I do while I'm here? We very often want to see our relationships as providing the answers to these questions. To the question Why don't I live forever? the answer becomes, If you love me, it doesn't matter. To the question, What is the meaning of life? we answer, Love. And to the question, What shall I do while I'm here? we often answer, Love my husband, love my wife, enjoy one another till death do us part.

Among the many things that we're continually trying to work out in our lives is the problem that none of us lives forever, that our human existence is finite. Because we are all afraid of death, of the ultimate extinction of our personalities, we do whatever we can to give ourselves stability. We try to provide ourselves with the illusion that some things can always be counted upon, that some things will always continue. We try to defend ourselves against the gaping hole of death by taking love into our lives, by staying close to the persons about whom and to whom we can say, I know you'll always be with me. I know you won't leave me here alone. Because the thought of death is so intimidating, whatever gives us the illusion of stability and permanence is extremely important to us, and it is to our relationships that we have assigned the primary task of providing us with this sense of permanence.

It is both natural and easy to expect this feeling of permanence from our relationships, because as children most of us experience ourselves as being constantly in relationship to our parents. From the very beginning of our conscious experience, we could feel that they were there, and, so far as we knew, they had always been there. They were there when we opened our eyes, when we first opened our mouths for nourishment, and when, gradually, we generated our first thoughts. Because of this continuous experience of them, our sense is that they are forever, that they always have been, and that they always will be. It is this sense of relationships as continuous and, in a sense, eternal that grants us the necessary stability in our early lives.

For most of us, there was also something immensely luxurious and peaceful